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Inbox: Will Panda have breakout season?

Red Sox beat reporter Ian Browne answers fans' questions
March 28, 2017

With Opening Day approaching fast, now is the perfect time to answer some fan questions in another edition of the Red Sox Inbox.Will Pablo Sandoval have a John Lackey-like turnaround after his tough introduction to playing in Boston? -- @Tim_HurdI think that's actually a very good comparison. Players often come

With Opening Day approaching fast, now is the perfect time to answer some fan questions in another edition of the Red Sox Inbox.
Will Pablo Sandoval have a John Lackey-like turnaround after his tough introduction to playing in Boston?
-- @Tim_Hurd

I think that's actually a very good comparison. Players often come to the Red Sox and they're not used to the market, and people can just write them off right away and say, "This guy can't handle Boston."
You look at what Lackey did -- he was a World Series hero in 2013 and just became a big star for the team after a rough introduction. Sandoval, much like Lackey did, has gotten himself into much better shape after an injury. I think Sandoval has put himself into position to be a prime candidate to win the American Leagues Comeback Player of the Year Award.
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What makes you most excited for the Sox's 2017 season? What are you skeptical about?
-- @kalebariley

Everybody has to be the "most excited" about Chris Sale. You bring in one of the top five starting pitchers in baseball, and a guy with his intensity, he just seems like he was made to pitch in Boston. He loves pitching in the big moments. Sale has never had a chance to pitch in the postseason. I think we're all looking forward to him pitching every fifth day with the Boston environment, to see how that can even take his game to another level.
As far as what I'm most skeptical about, probably the starting pitching depth. David Price is already injured going into the season, so you don't know what you're going to get from Price. After the front five, if there's an injury, you're talking about guys like Kyle Kendrick -- he's your lone veteran guy of your depth starters. Some other starters haven't really developed yet, like Christopher Johnson and Henry Owens, so if there's more injuries to the starting rotation, how are the Red Sox going to weather that?
What do you define as a "successful season" for this year?
-- @jimmy_g_goat

Last year, the Red Sox won 93 games and made the playoffs, but they were swept in the AL Division Series by the Indians. I'd say for this year, win the division again and you have to win a playoff round and hopefully get to the World Series. They have a pretty good roster here, with a lot of young players who are in their prime, too. You've got to win a playoff series. That sweep left a bitter taste in a lot of people's mouths last year.
Is it wrong to truly wrong to believe Andrew Benintendi can post .300/20/20 numbers in his rookie season?
-- @BostonPerk

I think that's maybe just a little ambitious. Benintendi definitely has the ability to hit .300, and he can steal 20 bases. I don't know if it's fair to expect 20 home runs just yet. Benintendi is probably going to hit second this year. I'd say if he hits 10 or 15 homers, has 30 to 40 doubles, 70 RBIs, 100 runs scored, that's a pretty good season for him. He's a top candidate for the AL Rookie of the Year Award this year.
What does it mean when you say that a Major League player may be kept on roster because they are out of options?
-- @coachleea

Typically, every player has three options once they make it to the Major Leagues for the first time. Each option is good for one season. For example, if you option a player five times in one season, that only counts as one option. One reason Christian Vazquez made the Sox's Opening Day roster is that he was out of options and Blake Swihart had options. To get Vazquez back to the Minor Leagues, the Red Sox would have had to designate him for assignment, which would have given the 29 other teams a chance to pick him up on waivers. Swihart can return to Pawtucket for more seasoning without the Red Sox facing the risk of losing him.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.